February is Oscars’ month, meaning there’ll be a whole lot of conversation and debate about movies over the next few weeks. It’s the biggest time in the cinematic calendar, and who wins what will either be seen as depressingly retrograde (as with Green Book‘s Best Picture win last year) or surprisingly encouraging and forward-looking – like Moonlight taking the big award home in 2017. This year’s Best Picture nominees are a huge improvement on 2019; I’m personally hoping for a Little Women win but expect 1917 to be victorious. Only one of the nine films in the running hasn’t been released in the UK yet, and the much-talked-about Parasite arrives this month. So, here are the top picks for February…
THE BLOCKBUSTER: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), dir. Cathy Yan
Release date: 7th February
Starring: Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rosie Perez, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ewan McGregor
Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn may have been the only decent thing about Suicide Squad. DC and Warner Bros. seem to think the same, as they’ve ditched Jared Leto and his Joker in favour of a Quinn-centric female ensemble that will see Harley team up with the other ladies of Gotham, such as Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), to take on Ewan McGregor’s sinister Black Mask. With an unwieldy full title, Birds of Prey looks to be taking the universe in an interesting direction; the trailer features plenty of vibrancy and irreverence. Robbie is a brilliant actress. If Birds of Prey puts her centre stage and lets her do her thing, this latest entry into the DC canon could be plenty of fun.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Portrait of a Lady on Fire, dir. Céline Sciamma
Release date: 28th February
Starring: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino
February doesn’t just mean the Oscars – we can’t forget about Valentine’s Day, and Portrait of a Lady on Fire looks like a stirring romance. Despite getting rave reviews, Céline Sciamma’s film wasn’t submitted as the French entry for Best International Feature Film. Here’s a summary: in 18th-century France, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) is set to be married to a Milanese nobleman – but she refuses to pose for a portrait that will seal the contract. Young painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is thus commissioned to secretly paint her, working in the guise of a walking companion, but the relationship that develops is full of unspoken feeling and passion. Portrait of a Lady on Fire looks utterly exquisite – Sciamma’s film may just be a romance for the ages.
EDITOR’S PICK: Parasite, dir. Bong Joon-ho
Release date: 7th February
Starring: Song Kang-ho, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong
What do you even say about Parasite? I’ve been purposely avoiding any plot details, because Bong Joon-ho’s new film arrives on British shores with an insane amount of hype. With six nominations at the upcoming Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, Parasite is the first South Korean film to ever be nominated for any Oscar – which is crazy in itself, considering the country’s rich cinematic history. Its Oscar chances are actually decent, with the film recently picking up the SAG award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble. It would be historic if Parasite were to pick up Best Picture. The critics’ consensus seems to suggest it would be the worthy winner, too. We simply cannot wait to see what Parasite has in store.